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    Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boaters

    Guidance for boaters (updated 23/02/21)

    Government Guidance

    It is critical for everybody to observe the following key behaviours:

    • HANDS - Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
    • FACE - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
    • SPACE - Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).

    RYA return to boating strategy

    The RYA publishes a considerable amount of detailed information to support its “Return to Boating” strategy across the boating community.  The RYA has also published updated FAQ for clubs, classes and RYA recognised training centres. 

    In the Home Countries, the RYA return to boating strategy depends on how the devolved administrations assess the threat. People who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the guidance provided by their administrations and in the country specific links that follow further below.

    1. Our guidance

    Covid-19 preventative measures are vital in keeping you, your family and others safe and to minimise pressure on frontline services. The RYA will continue to support the national effort to control the spread of Covid-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level.  We support the Government's Winter Plan to return to normality in a measured way and we recognise that we have a role to play by providing guidance to the RYA community on the application of the all tier regulations.

    2. Our approach

    Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan; we advise boaters to think carefully about these factors.

    As always, all of us should carefully consider the potential impact that we could have on other water users when we go afloat and ensure that we do not place any unnecessary strain on the RNLI, Independent Lifeboats and other emergency services.  We can do this by helping to minimise risk and by being considerate in our approach to our boating and acting responsibly.

    Coronavirus regulations

    The current regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to respond to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of the virus and its variants.  

    While guidance sets out how Governments expect people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law.

    The regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ but are still aimed at controlling the virus. People in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules for those parts of the UK and read the more detailed guidance on the RYA Home Country pages referred to below and which is relevant to boating in the Home Counties. 

    Recreational boating in England

    Current restrictions

    The Government published guidance for the national lockdown in England on 4 January 2021 (the Tier 4 restrictions). The Tier 4 restrictions apply to every area in England.  At the moment, you must not leave or be outside of your home unless you have a reasonable excuse to do so and you cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).

    The Tier 4 restrictions permit you to exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. The Government does not specify what exercise is and what it is not for obvious reasons and it is our understanding that boating is permitted as a form of exercise but only within the rules for meeting others. 

    The Government roadmap for easing restrictions

    On 22 February the Government published its roadmap setting out its principles for easing the current lockdown based on data not dates and the indicative, ‘no earlier than’ dates in the roadmap are all contingent on the data and subject to change. The roadmap is based on 4 steps, there will be at least 5 weeks between each step. Our understanding of what is permitted in each step follows:


    Step 1
    Part 1

    Step 1
    Part 2

    Step 2 


    Step 3


    Step 4


    No 'earlier than' date  8 March  29 March 12 April 17 May 21 June
    Meeting with others Recreation and exercise outdoors permitted with own household, support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household. Rule of 6 or 2 different households only can meet outdoors, including private gardens. Rule of 6 or 2 different households only can meet outdoors, including private gardens. Groups of no more than 30 can meet outdoors.  Rule of 6 or 2 different households can meet indoors. No limits on social contact
    Exercise, sporting and physical activity 

    You can exercise with 1 person from another household outdoors.

    Sport in school as part of the curriculum permitted.

    Organised outdoor sports permitted for  children and adults.

    These will not be subject to the gathering limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by the RYA.

    Indoor leisure facilities can open. All indoor group sports and exercises classes allowed. No restrictions.
    Hospitality - club bars and restaurants  Closed. Closed.

    Restaurants and bars can be open for outdoor table service only.

    No curfew or requirement for a “substantial meal”.

    Restaurants and pubs can open for indoor table service only. No restrictions.
    Staying overnight on your boat
     No permitted. Not permitted. Only permitted in England with people in your household (no shared facilities). Permitted in England with 1 other household or in a group of no more than 6. No restrictions

    Stay at home restriction continues.

    International holiday  travel not permitted.

    Outbound travellers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel on a Declaration to Travel form.

    Stay at home no longer required but minimise domestic travel.

    International holiday travel not permitted.

    Outbound travellers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel on a Declaration to Travel form.

    International holiday travel not permitted.

    Outbound travellers will be legally obliged to provide their reason for travel on a Declaration to Travel form.

    International travel subject to review but no earlier than 17 May. No restrictions.

    The Devolved Administrations are setting out separate plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Our FAQs based on what we believe the guidance means for recreational boating in England will be updated as we move step by step through the Government's plan to ease restrictions in England.

    Recreational boating in Scotland

    Updated guidance available at the  guidance update for Scotland page of the RYA Scotland website continues to provide support and detailed guidance across all forms of boating.

    Recreational boating in Northern Ireland

    For information specific to Northern Ireland for affiliated organisations and individuals, please visit the Northern Ireland Return to Boating page.

    Recreational boating in Wales

    For the latest information, please visit the RYA Cymru Wales Return to Boating Wales pages.


    The RYA’s advice to all our members is that you should check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states, particularly if the latest restrictions are preventing you from visiting your boat. Our understanding is that most insurers are willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown.

    UK canals and rivers

    Guidance for the Canal & River Trust navigations was last updated on 23 February 2021 and you should look at its coronavirus and boating FAQs for more information.

    Recreational boating abroad

    Check the rules that apply in EnglandScotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  You must follow all the rules that apply to you. 

    Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.

    The European Union has set up a website and a mobile app where you can see if travel is possible to each member state, the requirements of each destination, and other information to answer travellers’ questions. Go to Re-open EU for travel information and guidelines for each destination.

    Noonsite provides a considerable amount of information that may help recreational boaters abroad and its Covid-19 document has guidance as well as links to the latest developments.

    Entering or returning to the UK

    Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.

    Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    If you intend to travel to the UK from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure.

    Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details.

    You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

    When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional COVID-19 tests. If you are travelling from a country on the banned travel list you must quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    International recreational vessel arrivals

    Attention is drawn to the following requirements for those arriving at a UK port on recreational vessels from overseas. 

    Unless exempt, all international recreational maritime arrivals entering the UK will need to quarantine on arrival into the UK. This self-isolation can be completed on the vessel. These rules apply to both UK residents and visitors. 

    All international recreational maritime vessels arriving in the UK, apart from those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man (the Common Travel Area/CTA), must complete a mandatory Passenger Locator Form.   

    To get in touch

    Should RYA members require any advice related to the guidance on this page please contact the RYA Cruising Team on +44 (0) 23 8060 4233 (please have your membership number to hand) or email (please include your membership number in your email).

    For other enquiries, call the RYA on +44 (0) 23 8060 4100. 

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